The search continues for the remains of Red Hugh O’Donnell, one of Ireland’s most beloved historical heroes, who died in Spain in 1602.
Spanish archaeologists conducted a major excavation under a road between a Santander bank branch and a women’s clothing store in the city of Valladolid in May 2020.
Unfortunately, O’Donnell’s skeleton, which should have been easily identified for having lost both of his big toes to frostbite during a daring escape from Dublin Castle, was not among the 20 bodies recovered.
But a leading Irish historian specializing in the era is set to unveil a startling discovery today at a Red Hugh memorial in Valladolid that could reignite the mystery.
dr John McCavitt, who has written three books about this era, has unearthed a tombstone that may shed more light on the final resting place of Red Hugh, who was at least originally buried in the Chapel of Miracles at a famous Franciscan monastery in Valladolid.
“What I found is an inscription on an early 17th century tombstone about Red Hugh O’Donnell,” said Mr. McCavitt.
He refused to give too many details about the tombstone ahead of the main ceremony, adding: “I know where it isn’t and it’s not in Valladolid, but the mystery will be solved.”
dr McCavitt is among a large Irish contingent who traveled to Valladolid over the weekend to celebrate the life and legacy of Red Hugh and the historic links between Ireland and Spain.
Later today, an Irish-Spanish memorial group will re-enact Red Hugh’s funeral through the streets of Valladolid. Up to 50 Irish made the journey, including many Irish expats who had traveled from Madrid and the Spanish Basque Country.
The commemoration was organized by Carlos Burgos, President of the Spanish-Irish Association. He also coordinated the excavation of Red Hugh’s remains and found himself taking calls from media outlets around the world, so fascinated was the Irish hero.
The Spanish media became intrigued by the search for the chief’s remains and he has been variously described as “El Cid” or “William Wallace” of Ireland.
Red Hugh’s continued popularity is understandable, historians say. He led the Nine Years’ War from 1593 to 1603 with his father-in-law, Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone.
The duo led arguably the most successful rebellions against the English in Irish history.
After escaping British custody, Red Hugh led a rebellion that almost drove English forces out of Ireland.
After suffering defeat during the Siege of Kinsale in 1602, he traveled to Valladolid, then the capital of Spain, to seek further support from King Philip III.
Red Hugh, an Irish nobleman of the Donegal-O’Donnell dynasty, died in Spain later that year while still trying to secure Spanish support for another invasion of Ireland against their common enemy, England.
There he contracted a tapeworm infection at the age of 29. According to others, he was poisoned by British spy James Blake, a Galway merchant seaman. Blake claimed he murdered Red Hugh on behalf of Munster Governor George Carew.
Red Hugh led a colorful life, and his backstory has fascinated historians for centuries.
dr McCavitt said Red Hugh and Hugh O’Neill became famous in Europe because their army “regularly defeated the English”.
“Red Hugh’s death was hugely important to the Irish cause overall, ending the prospect of another Spanish military invasion,” he said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/i-know-where-its-not-historian-hints-at-new-clue-in-hunt-for-the-missing-remains-of-red-hugh-odonnell-41980903.html Red Hugh O’Donnell: Historian points to new lead in search for chief’s body after Spanish search